Yikes! Celebs Tell Ghost Stories

Yes, Halloween has come and gone. But, who says ghost stories can only be told on Halloween? Last night, my wife and I had the pleasure of having ghost stories read to us by a few celebrities of both film and television fame. Ok, so we weren’t tucked into bed and read said tales. It was a fundraising event to help support Astor Services for Children and Families in Rhinebeck, NY.

The event was spearheaded by the husband and wife duo, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton. For those who don’t know, Morgan plays Negan on The Walking Dead. Of course, he has been in a slew of films as well including Watchmen and The Resident. His wife, Burton, is also an actress whose credits include One Tree Hill, The List and Lethal Weapon (TV) among others.

But, what had to be a complete surprise to all in attendance was the appearance, and participation, of the Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd!

The event started with an introduction to Astor Services followed by an account of a local ghost story that was taken from the headlines of a newspaper article written in the 1800s! Next, there was audience participation where a few members of the audience we treated to a free Tarot Reading from Marcy Currier. Paul Rudd himself was treated to a reading where he asked Marcy if an Oscar is in his near future (he asked on behalf of Hilarie because “she wanted to know”). Marcy said that the cards show that he will soon be presented with a script that may garner him the prestigious Hollywood honor. To this, Mr. Rudd retorted by saying that said role will probably be given to Jason Bateman. The reading was followed by a hilarious “ghost story” read by Rudd which had the audience, including me, laughing until tears escaped our eye sockets.

Photo by Alex H. Wagner of The Poughkeepsie Journal

There was a horror Mad Libs session where raffle winners joined the actors on stage and provided verbs, adjectives, and nouns to complete a narrative which was then read aloud and, again, induced stomach pounding laughter from the audience. Did I mention that the two winners were eleven years old?

There was also a special video made by a few of their celebrity friends that included the likes of Andrew Lincoln (Rick from Walking Dead), Norman Reedus (Darryl from Walking dead) and a slew of other noteworthy actors as they did a reading of “The Hangman” by Maurice Ogden.

Finally, the actors read ghost stories written by the children of Astor Services. This was fantastic as it reminded me of when I was a kid and used to write “scary” stories. To be fair, these stories, despite their flaws as one would expect from kids, were great! They were great stories and hilarious because as the saying goes, kids say the darndest things! As one would expect, laughter ensued.

I would say that the night was a complete success as the place was packed! Not one empty seat in the venue and as everyone walked out of the venue to their respective cars, people were recounting their favorite moments and, most importantly, everyone had a smile on their face including my wife and me. It was a special night with fantastic hosts, and I cannot wait for next year’s event!

 

How I Miss Thee, Vermont!

What has developed into a “yearly” tradition, my family and I headed up to Vermont again for the third time in the past four years. So we skipped a year as we opted for Maine last year. This time around, we made our way to Burlington. No, not the coat factory (sorry, I had too) but a lively small city in Northern Vermont.

As is the case with most trips and getaways, I had no idea where we were going until the last moment. Let me correct that, I’m sure she told me about it but I just simply forgot (or wasn’t paying attention). The ride up was, as expected, long and scenic, ergo, beautiful. Still, save for a numb rear end, the destination and the time spent with my family was absolutely worth the trip as is always the case.

We arrived in Essex, VT and had a WTF moment when the GPS prompted us to make a right turn. Naturally, I did so and realized that I turned into what looked like a dead-end. Oh, how wrong I was. We were not met by a brick wall. No, instead, were met by a body of water. Damn you GPS, I thought! I got back on the main road and the estimated time of arrival to the hotel was now longer. Wait, did I miss or turn or something, I said aloud to my wife to which she responded. No, I think we have to cross said body of water. Naturally, I scoffed at this remark.

By George, she was right! We pulled up to a booth and a nice lady advised us of the next ferry and, yes, my car will be boarding. What?! (went through my head) I never thought that I would board a boat with my car. But, here I was, and it was pretty awesome!

We got to the hotel, dropped off our belongings and headed into town where we had dinner and watched the sunset. Afterward, I hit up some record shops and found the soundtrack to A Most Violent Year at Pure Pop Records, sealed on vinyl for $9.00 (thank you very much). Then, the three of us just hung around the town, listened to live music and watched my little girl dance like a mad woman on the streets of Burlington to music in the open air. It was such a good time with my family, having escaped New York and leaving behind the jargon and headaches. This is what I live for!

The next day, we got some mighty good breakfast from Sneaker’s Bistro then headed over to Cohoes to entertain the child. She had a great time but, as is the case with any 4-year-old, it was not enough. So, what do kids love (and many adults with a brain and a sweet tooth)? Chocolate!

We went to the Lake Champlain Chocolates where we were “treated” to a tour and was able to divulge in some samples. I ordered a large hot cocoa while we waited for the tour to start and would you believe it if I told you my daughter spilled the hot, scorching beverage on my lap and ruined my favorite pair of pants?? Oh, I was seething, but upon discovering that I caught the moment on video when she knocked over the drink, my wife and I couldn’t help but laugh. We helped clean the mess on the floor just in time for the tour to begin. Their fair-trade dark chocolate (their specialty) was delicious!

You think that was enough? Nope. My daughter wanted to go to the playground! Of course, you do! What makes playgrounds in Vermont any different than a playground where we live, I thought. Then, I saw this!

She had enough of my taking pics at this point

Well played, daughter…. well played. So, she made a good call! Afterward, we were off to dinner and called it a night.

The following day we went to the Vermont Teddy Bear Headquarters where, as one would come to expect, my daughter wanted one. Being parents, and saps, we obliged to her request and purchased one. And after another long day, and with a heavy heart, we retreated from Vermont and made the long trek back home!

This is the one we purchased… no, it’s not.

Until next time, Vermont!

The 2017 Pumpkin Blaze!

It’s the annual Pumpkin Blaze! The last time my wife and I made the hour trek to Croton, which sits near Sleepy Hollow in NY, was a little over five years ago before the birth of our child. Although the event was always on our radar, for some reason or another, we just could not make the trip. Nine times out of ten, tickets were sold out. But, we knew that we had to take our little munchkin out there to witness, first-hand, the wonders and splendors of the awesome pumpkin carvings and displays. Finally, this year, we put our feet down and ordered tickets to the Blaze as soon as they went up for sale!

This past weekend arrived before I knew it and as soon as I got out of work on Friday, I went home, picked up my wife and daughter and made our way down. This whole trip was a surprise for my daughter, and she had no idea where we were going. I told her we were going to a haunted house but stopped teasing when she freaked out! I was so excited to see the look on my daughter’s face when we arrived.

We arrived and finally revealed where we were as we walked through the pumpkin-laden entrance. Families walked to and fro snapping photos of their loved ones as they posed behind enlarged pumpkin cutouts. We walked into the gift shop and made a note to stop by before exiting the premises. We then waited in line for our assigned time-slots to be called: we were part of the 7:00 PM crew, and after waiting for a few minutes, we were instructed to proceed through the “pearly gates”! I looked at my daughter, and she had a look of wonder and amazement as her eyes scrutinized her surroundings – a pumpkin here, a pumpkin there, a pumpkin everywhere! We were surrounded by pumpkins and it was, for lack of a better word, awesome! The weather, thankfully, was pleasant which made for a comfortable stroll through the premises. Of course, as one would expect, the place was filled with people coming everywhere to check out the spectacle which made for heavy foot traffic here and there which also meant that daughter wanted me to carry her every so often. I was still able to snap a few photos here and there and, as I suspected, my daughter started to get bored after a while and was more concerned about when we were leaving.

The experience can be short or long, depending on how fast/slow you walk or want to take in. We were there for about an hour – not too bad. I asked my daughter if she like it, Yes, she responded. Great! I was so happy she enjoyed it and was already looking forward to next year with the hopes that she gets more into the Halloweeny stuff that I enjoyed. I looked at her, a broad smile on my face, and asked, “Do you want to do it again next year?” She looked at me and responded with an emphatic, “NO!”

The smile and look on my face turned into confusion. I inquired why and she didn’t give a good explanation but hey, she is four years old, what did I expect?! And home, we went.

Ouija, Ouija! Are You For Real?

I don’t know about you, but when this time of the year rolls around, I have this itchy and giddy excitement within. Why? Your inquisitive mind asks. Because I know that we are approaching that one special time of the year where all things scary are forgivable to an unrelenting public, when fear is sought out rather than condemned and when the spirits are said to roam the Earth without having to shelter themselves within the dark confines of shadow and darkness. Yes, I’m talking about Halloween. 

One would be remiss if the essence and beauty of Halloween are not acknowledged here in the Hudson Valley. My house is not adorned with Halloween paraphernalia and decorations throughout the year, and Lord knows I don’t rummage the streets at night with a ghastly costume (some may beg to differ). But, I do consider Halloween a year-round event simply because I love all things scary. Want to tell ghost stories under the stars in the middle of the summer? Go for it! In the mood for a movie? Let’s see what new horror movie is available. Hell, I’d even settle for a classic!

During this time of year, I get giddy excitement. Why? Your inquisitive mind asks. Because that special time of year is approaching where all things scary are forgivable to an unrelenting public; when fear is sought out rather than condemned and when the spirits are alleged to roam the Earth without having to shelter themselves within the dark confines of shadow and darkness. Yes, I’m talking about Halloween.

While I don’t adorn my house with Halloween paraphernalia and decor throughout the year, and Lord knows I don’t parade the streets at night with a ghastly costume (although my wife may disagree), I do consider Halloween a year-round event simply because I love all things scary. Want to tell ghost stories under the stars in the middle of the summer? I’m game. In the mood for a movie? What horror movie do you have in mind? Hell, I’d even settle for a classic in the comfort of my living room!

Another way I like to satisfy my morbid fascination is by using my imagination. Books help to quench my thirst. I enjoy reading and, when I get the chance to do so, my preferred choice of books tend to lean towards the dark, the macabre, scary, ghoulish, frightening – you get the point. There is something about terrifying myself that is simply irresistible.

A few of the books I have read lately have made a few references to the use of the infamous Ouija (Wee-Jee) board. These were books of the non-fiction variety which, in more case than one, resulted in a house haunting (sometimes persons), ghosts (usually of the malignant variety, no Casper) or demon infestations and possession. Do I believe everything I read? Absolutely not. I am very interested in the subject matter but usually look at it as no more than mere entertainment. I view the Ouija Board in the same manner.

Of course, this is my standpoint because after having used it on numerous occasions with not so much as an unearthly fart I stand firm in my disbelief of the board wielding any supernatural powers. However, I do respect the point of views of others and do not mock them so long as their stories don’t border along the lines of the ridiculous.

A Brief History of the Ouija Board

 

For those living under a rock- a Ouija board, or talking board, is used as a means of communicating with the dead. There is no better way to spend the night at a friend’s house without having the presence of a Ouija board to keep the party going.

On May 28, 1890, businessmen Elijah Bond and Charles Kennard patented a planchette sold with a board with the alphabet imprinted on it thus inventing the very first Ouija board. It wasn’t until 1901 that the now famous (at least the name) William Fuld, an employee of Kennard, took over production of the talking board and sold the new product under the name “Ouija.” According to Wikipedia:

“Kennard claimed he learned the name “Ouija” from using the board and that it was an ancient Egyptian word meaning “good luck.” When Fuld took over production of the boards, he popularized the more widely accepted etymology, that the name came from a combination of the French and German words for “yes.” The Fuld name would become synonymous with the Ouija board, as Fuld reinvented its history, claiming that he himself had invented it.”

 

Of course, this was when the Ouija board was marketed as a toy and gained its notoriety. However, roots to the “talking board” go back to the 1800s when spiritualism was all the rage. So it may not have been patented as a planchette and board combination, but there were other means of communicating with the dead that wasn’t branded with the name “Ouija.”

There were a number of ways mediums made followers believe that they were communicating messages from those who had passed. One way was the use of a planchette. People would place their fingers on the device (the planchette) where spirits then guided the talking device to a respective letter of the alphabet to answer questions by loved ones. Another method was the famous table turning. This approach involved the table moving or knocking on the floor in response to letters called out from the alphabet. This technique was easy to debunk, and many frauds have been exposed using this method which was a significant reason for the decline of the spiritual movement among others.

Eventually, mediums resorted to channeling while in a trance. Others built sophisticated tables, dials, and tables painted with letters that required people to use a planchette as a pointer. This method stuck and became the most popular paving the way for the Ouija board.

 

A Story of the Ouija Board

Once upon a time, all things paranormal were real. Well, as real as something can be to an eleven-year-old. I took almost everything at face value, even those few times when friends and family gathered (especially on Halloween) to tell stories, drink (soda) and eat junk food. The pinnacle moment in these gatherings was the use of the “all-powerful” Ouija board.

It was great! Have a question about the future? Ask the board! Want to talk to a long-deceased family member? Ask the board! Want to know if “such-and-such” liked you? Ask the board! Yes, rather naive but what can I say I (we) were naive. Mind you all of this was done with no adult supervision for the simple reason that it was “forbidden” due to its “mystical” powers. I grew up in a Catholic household, so it was no surprise that toying with such a “tool” was no laughing matter.

“It’s a portal to hell!”

This is what we were told on numerous by numerous family members and friends of family members who were, for the most part, devoted Catholics. One of which who was my mother. But, she would simply tell me not to use it in the house. Sure, I could have listened to her, but then that wouldn’t make me a kid now would it (I was a good kid, I promise!).

I even went so far as to record these Ouija sessions with my dad’s camcorder. For what purpose? Well, for some reason I always had this mental image of a spirit sitting beside myself and pushing the planchette alongside me, and I thought I’d capture that spirit on film. Of course, no such thing ever happened although I could have sworn that I heard a low humming or moaning sound when reviewing the footage. But when rationality kicked into high gear, I attributed the sound to that of a car’s muffler in the distance. I mean, this was NYC after all. This, however, was only the tip of the iceberg.

Much like the height of spirituality in the United States, my romp with the Ouija Board was very much like the rise in popularity of the supernatural in the 1800s. I simply could not get enough of it and my fascination with speaking to the dead only increased. Did it scare me? You bet your ass it did! But, again, I welcomed the fear (see above). Then, there was Tony.

Tony was a spirit a few cousins and I “contacted” on the Ouija Board one night many, many years ago. What made Tony so intriguing and interesting was the force in which it exemplified when moving the planchette across the board. He was strong, and he was scary! A mental image of Tony was that of Vlad the Impaler! I don’t know why, but this was my vision of the man, er, spirit. No, I’m not psychic, clairvoyant, a medium or anything of the variety. Call me a kid with a vivid imagination.

 

Tony, according to “it,” was bad when he walked among the living being guilty of cruel and violent acts such as R-A-P-E and M-U-R-D-E-R. I remember my stomach turning as the words were being spelled out. It was the first time we had “contacted” anyone or anything so evil. Sweat formed on my forehead, but I could not let go of the planchette. I was afraid that by doing so would call attention to me and lord knows I didn’t want this thing being upset at me. And so, my fingers remained atop the triangular device and hoped (wished) that it just went away. Of course, I would have no such luck, and so I had to endure the remainder of the session until Tony had decided he had enough with us pesky kids. Did I mention that I was a young, naive kid? Just saying.

I remembered trying to contact Tony on a few other occasions to no avail. He seemed only to make himself available whenever my cousins were around. Apparently, they had more luck reaching him in the netherworld (hell!). There was one instance when they asked him for a sign of his presence, and the radio turned on, and a loud “Hallelujah” blared through the speakers! Another time, the planchette jumped off the board and chased my cousin out of the apartment. I was amazed, thrilled, terrified, excited – you name it! I just wished I was there to see it! And therein lies the problem.

I hear stories galore of freaky things happening to people all around me but not once has anything downright creepy ever happened to me. I know, I know – “be careful what you wish for!” I’m not asking for something life-altering to happen to me. But can I just get a taste to at least shut up the skeptic in me? If not to shut me up then at least to give me one hell of a scare!

Hell of a scare!

I once had an amazing collection of Ouija boards adorn the facade of my bedroom wall, then I got married, and all those boards were no longer welcomed. See, my wife is afraid of the board, and all things said to go bump in the night. I would be too if I believed in such things. But as it is, I leave everything up to the imagination to do all the scaring for me. To me, there is no boogeyman; there is no vengeful spirit (or demon) lurking within the confines of a piece of cardboard manufactured by Parker Brothers. No, to me, there are only stories and imagination that if left unattended can tend to get carried away. The mind, after-all, is a powerful thing.

Have I used a Ouija Board since my youth? Nope. Not because I’m afraid too but it would just be a waste of my time. That and the fact that everyone I know happens to be a chicken (no offense to those I know) and believes in its power and refuses to use it fearing that they would fall prey to the powers of the board. Or, they may not believe in it entirely but somewhere, lingering in the back of their mind, the thought of it actually working is embedded and will not use it simply “just in case.” I fall somewhere in between this final thought and flat-out not believing. Having a family makes me more cautious.

Halloween is upon us, and I may just find someone during this “unholiest” of months to partner up with and get a good Ouija session or two in the books to either disprove or prove something to myself. If anything, it may be just what I’m looking for or, dare I say it, looking for me. Hey, I may get a good chuckle out of such an ordeal (doubtful). What better time to use the board than this time of year when the spirits are on the prowl? So long as we don’t do it at my home, you know, just in case.

Awesome Things!

Let me start by saying this; I don’t love Stranger Things. I like it, but I don’t love it. I already hear the “boos” and the snarls – yeah, yeah, thumbs down for me! Still, I was compelled to buy this Blu-ray set that was just released the other day because the packaging was, in my opinion, incredible and extremely nostalgic – a trait that the show heavily relies on. That being said, it’s one of the reasons why I’m not such a huge fan of the show. Why? Because I feel like every scene (or maybe every other scene) has to remind us that it takes place in the 80s as if we didn’t already know that.

Oh, look at this costume – it’s 80s!
Check out this board game – it’s 80s!
Listen to this song – it’s 80s!


 

You get the picture. I get the nods, but I feel like there are too many nods and winks to the children of the 80s. But, hey, that’s just me. Sure, it’s fantastic that the setting takes place in a time when I was growing up and seeing a lot of the 80s references is awesome but, dare I say it, sometimes it can be a bit much. The show’s soundtrack is pretty ace being synth and all. So yeah, I do like the show!

In any event, as I was saying, I needed to have this in my collection. Will I watch it again? Probably not, not for a while, at least. But just take a look at this packaging! I think it’ll look great alongside my other blu-rays albeit being a little bigger than most.

Bonus poster included!

Bravo Netflix and Target, Bravo!

Put the Needle on the Record

The vinyl resurgence came and went. Now, it is more of a surge because I cannot keep up with all of the awesome releases that are coming out, in particular, the film score.

Since my youth (not that I’m old), I have always been a big fan of movie scores and soundtracks. The difference? Well, you know, various artists and such that “influenced” the music of the film. My dad had a small vinyl collection, two of which were the soundtracks to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and, wait for it, Star Wars! It was my first experience listening to a soundtrack in its entirety, and perhaps my love for both film music and the greatest space opera. When I was old enough to make purchases on my own without having to beg my mom and dad to buy me a new release, CDs were on the rise and vinyl records were on their way out – or so we thought. My biggest obstacle was (drum rolls, please) – MONEY!

So, my biggest questions were:

A. how can I make money;
B. where can I find a job that didn’t exploit kids new to being a teenager and;
C. is said job in a safe area?

At this time, we’re talking about maybe 1993(ish) when the CD was already out and about in the world for consumer consumption. I was content with owning movie scores and compilations featuring some of my favorite composers with the likes of John Williams, Ennio Morricone, James Horner, Alan Silvestri and more on a cassette made and produced by yours truly (more on this later). Plus, there was that barrier that was stopping me ($$$). Then, there was my “knight in shining armor” – high school! Perhaps a poor choice of words being that I went to an all-male Catholic Academy! Still, it was here where we were allowed to purchase lunch, from a menu! No more frozen pizza or canned vegetables. No, we had options, and options meant we had to pay for this wonderful privilege of starches and carbs. This also meant that mommy and daddy would give me cash for lunch! I would starve myself and mooch off of leftovers from my buddies’ styrofoam plates. The sacrifice was well worth it in that I had saved enough money to reward myself with a soundtrack that weekend. And, thus, my first unofficial “job” was born – no exploitation needed.

Living in New York City, I was privy to many music stores that I fancied, what with the likes of Sam Goody, the Virgin Megastore in Times Square, Coconuts, Tower Records, HMV and The Wiz (I know, more of an electronics vendor). I’m sure there are a ton of others.

I would spend hours looking for that one “special” CD. I never knew what I wanted, but I knew that once I saw it, I needed to have it – much like the days perusing the aisles at Blockbuster Video. Whatever the purchase, it was imperative that I chose wisely or the sacrifice of missing out on hamburgers, fries, pizza and hot dogs for lunch all week would have been for naught. Most of the time I would find something for the sake of not going home empty-handed. I can’t say, for sure, but I want to say that the first film score I purchased on CD was Tim Burton’s Batman, composed by Danny Elfman.

Of course, I could be wrong. Knowing me and my adoration for compilation CDs it could have been such CD that won the $20 that was burning a hole in my pocket. I mean, come on, how could one go wrong with a CD that contains various soundtracks from some of my favorite movies. I discovered that a lot could go wrong with buying such a CD. Most of the music on such CDs were re-recording’s of some of my favorite film scores. No, I prefer the original recordings.

If they weren’t available on CD, I would do the next best thing. I would hook up my dad’s VCR and/or (eventual DVD Player) to his stereo deck cassette player and record specific cues from any given soundtrack while the movie played on the TV – mostly the opening and end credits as they would not feature any dialogue or background noise. I would make my very own compilations and film score mixtapes!

And so, my CD collection grew. Sure, it wasn’t the biggest, but it was semi-modest.

Anf then, there as Napster. What can I say, I was in college and Napster allowed for “free” music! Of course, it wasn’t free but I knew nothing (at the time) of copyright and the laws that govern such material – I thought that only applied to movies, you know, FBI Warning Disclaimer and all. This opened up the floodgates, and my hard drive became home to scores and scores or, well, scores! Yes, I know it was wrong, but I didn’t have full albums, mostly opening and closing credit themes. I know, still not cool but I ended up purchasing them, eventually… I swear!

FULL CIRCLE?

And now, here we are, 2017, and vinyl is back – with a vengeance! With record labels such as Waxwork Records, Mondo, Lakeshore, One Way Static, Invada and more reissuing and releasing new soundtracks on vinyl we are living in a time of a vinyl and soundtrack haven. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say my pockets are hurting… bad! I’m better now, being both mindful and extremely picky about what I’m spending my money on but, the temptation will always be there.

More and more grails are being reissued such as the upcoming reissue of the Hellraiser soundtrack by Christopher Young and release of Creepshow 2, it is only a matter of time before The Evil Dead is released again to the masses. Although I own the soundtrack on CD, I am eager to own this beast of vinyl but, being a rarity, the price often soars above the $200 mark and, in my opinion, no record is worth that much – unless of course, I have disposable income, which I do not! But, as Wayne Campbell would say, “That vinyl will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine!”

That’s the beauty of it all is that the current climate dictates that if a vinyl has been long out of production and there is likely a demand for it, there is a chance that there will be a repress. Or, if said vinyl never existed, there is now a likelihood that it will get pressed. And how great is it to say,

“I’m going to check out the record shop today. Wanna come?”We are, indeed, living in good times.

In my area, here in the Hudson Valley, vinyl is not plentiful but sufficient what with stores like Darkside Records in Poughkeepsie and Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz, both just a few minutes’ ride through the scenic valley always makes for a great short trip with the family. Then there’s FYE and Barnes & Nobles who also carry records, not the best selection (soundtrack-wise), but enough to get your fix. We are, indeed, living in good times.

My Evil Dead: Part 3 – Army of Darkness

When I saw the trailer for Army of Darkness in 1993, I was at a loss. It featured our brazen hero, Ash, once again battling the deadites – only they didn’t look so horrific this time around. In fact, there were more than a few moments that made me chuckle.

What is this and why am I laughing? This is not The Evil Dead. This is Army of Darkness! I was 13 years old and on the brink of my freshman year in high school. Since the time between Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, I wised up a bit, what with going to high school and all, so it was no surprise to me to take notice that there was something different about this new installment of the franchise.

My brain screamed, “Noooooooo!

First, they opted out of using the words “Evil” and “Dead” in the title and our hero, Ash, was now a loud-mouthed comedian! In said year, 1993, I was not privy to the plethora of information that the internet now provides us. So I knew close to nothing about director Sam Raimi and his cohorts. I didn’t know that they were huge fans of “The Three Stooges” nor that many of their collegiate shorts were comedic in nature. Of course, I should’ve taken note of that with Evil Dead II but c’mon, I mean, I was seven!

Unofficially, it was The Evil Dead III but, as I found out years later, the change in title had something to do with Hollywood politics that I won’t get into for the sake of the blog entry.

There was a common denominator in this story as with my previous two entries regarding the first two films in the Evil Dead series… my dad. Sure, I could’ve taken the train to my local movie theater on 181st Street in Manhattan; however, it wasn’t playing there. So, again, I asked my dad to take me. I enjoyed going to the movies with my father, but I knew this movie wasn’t his cup of tea. To my surprise, he agreed to take me and off we went to Movieland (then United Artists) in Yonkers, NY right off of Central Avenue.

There was nothing special about the movie theater from an architectural standpoint and was actually, what most would consider, bare. Still, it was a theater in which my father and I frequented on many occasions having watched movies such as Robocop, The Believers, Predator, Back to the Future II, Batman, etc. , etc. It was a personal favorite of ours conveniently located near a Dragon’s Den and a Bradlee’s! As you can see, there was “entertainment” abound as the theater was in the center of this strip mall.

 

There were many things about the movie that changed dramatically from its predecessors, namely the overall tone of the film. Where we saw a mixture of both horror and comedy in Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness seemed to have been an all out comedy. Was I happy about this? No, not initially. But, with time (about 30 minutes into the movie) I found myself digging this installment.

At the film’s conclusion, I remember trying to fit all the pieces together. Was this indeed part the Evil Dead series? Why did it make me laugh? And why was there a marching band of the dead?

Surely, there was a mistake, right? Nope!

Was there to be more? The end of Army of Darkness certainly left open the possibilities of another sequel and The Evil Dead IV was inevitable… or so I thought. For years there have been rumors that Sam Raimi will helm a fourth sequel to the franchise. The rumors are still present to this day where Bruce Campbell has said he will do another sequel to the film so long as Raimi is on board. More likely than not, they probably just get a kick out of watching these rabid fans foam at the mouth. The bastards! Still love’ em though.

Sad to say but, our hero Ash has aged, and I’d have to wonder if he can still pull off the many stunts and obstacles that young Ash had to endure during his first couple of stints with the Deadites. But then again, Harrison Ford was able to bring Indiana Jones back to life despite his dull and aged appearance.

Fast forward a couple of years, and there was still no word on the fourth installment of The Evil Dead. By this time, a technological marvel was becoming very crucial to my everyday life… the World Wide Web. No longer did I have to wait for the latest issue of Fangoria to get the latest news on upcoming movies but all I had to do was sign up via 56k modem and hop on a newsgroup where unconfirmed rumors were plentiful. Still, the Evil Dead IV was (and still is) in Hollywood limbo, and all I can do is hope that one day it will be released to the eagerly awaiting fan base. Then again, there is the Evil Dead (2013) remake and Ash Vs. Evil Dead! One can only hope for a direct sequel, I suppose.

Read My Evil Dead Part 1

Read My Evil Dead Part 2

‘Twas The Night Before…

… her first day of school, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse – except the sound of my heart beating and savagely pounding against my chest. Was my daughter feeling this way as well? I don’t know because she was already fast asleep although I knew that she too was nervous. She said so earlier when I asked her how she was feeling about school.

“I’m scared, Dad.” (more…)

The Close Enough (For Now) 2017 Solar Eclipse

Here it is, August 21, 2017 – the year of the total solar eclipse. And here I am, in New York where the moon will shade the sun by 70%! Good enough. I was going to name this post, The Close Enough (For Now) 2017 Solar Eclipse That Terrified My Daughter but that title was way too long. Seriously though, I would love to be able to see the total (100%) eclipse of the sun, and I may have to plan that for the next one which is slated for the year 2024 where I may be able to see it from Syracuse, NY! Seven years is a long ways ahead, but I have seven years to plan! (more…)

That Creepshow Thing!

To take a page out of the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Sreet (yes, I know), my micro-dreams are coming true! Creepshow, released in 1982, became an instant favorite of mine being an avid fan of both horror movies and anthologies. Of course, I didn’t see said film the year it was released as I was only about 2-years old at the time and would not have made my mom and dad parents of the year had they brought an infant into a dark cinema to watch the product of hot commodities Stephen King and George Romero (R.I.P.).

No, it was years later (a few) when video stores stocked Creepshow 2 onto shelves. This film, along with its predecessor, were two films I eagerly anticipated watching having seen posters for them every time I walked into the local video store. I was seven years old and had already been introduced to horror with Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and The Evil Dead paving the way – these films were vital in stamping my heart with the love of the genre. (more…)

Fall, Is That You I Smell?

 

I don’t know what it is but, although it’s just the beginning of August, I can feel the Fall in the air! No, it’s not the Fall and Halloween decor that adorns the aisles of big box retailers with the likes of Michael’s and Target or the neon green Spirit Halloween banner that just screamed LOOK AT ME! as we drove past it. Nor was it the cost of one iced coffee, a hot coffee and five chocolate Munchkins which amounted to a total of $6.66 – mere coincidences and constant reminders of what is just around the corner. (more…)

Paging Dr. Sleep

Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

After a minor hiatus from reading (give or take a couple of weeks), I finally got around to finishing up Stephen King’s follow up to The Shining, Doctor Sleep. After having recently read said novel about the Torrance’s “family getaway” at the Outlook Hotel, I was itching to dive into this follow-up novel to find the answer to the question of what happened to that kid and his mother from The Shining? 

I’ll start with my verdict; it was meh. I was a huge fan of the 1977 novel by King, placing it at the very top of my favorite SK books. Of course, I still have yet to read other classics in his catalog with the likes of Pet Sematary, Salem’s Lot or Carrie but from what I have read, thus far (see here) The Shining is my favorite.

For starters, Doctor Sleep just didn’t pack the same mojo its predecessor had going for it. Where the 1977 novel was a supernatural/psychological creep fest that was sure to keep you up at night, Sleep, in my opinion, fell short of that and almost played out more like a crime/thriller that did not pack much of a punch. As far as scares? There were some (a few) but nothing that kept me up at night. In a 2012 New York Daily News article, the author himself, King,  stated that it is “a return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror.”  Hardly.

Yes, I still liked it but I can’t say that I am much of a fan of this one. It almost seemed like King was writing with the intent (hope) that this will one day be adapted for the big, or little, screen. There were times where it felt like I was reading a screenplay.

I have my reservations about this book, especially how its tone differed from that of The Shining. There were more than enough nuggets and nods to the novel’s predecessor that made me smile. But, all in all, this book could have been a stand-alone book. With the exception of Danny (now Dan) who is grown up and trying to get his life in order, still equipped with his supernatural gift of the shine, the book would also have worked well on its own with a new set of characters. Another thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that I didn’t really feel like our protagonists were in any real danger. Sure, there were a few close calls, but by the time I neared the book’s conclusion, I was confident that things were going to work in their favor despite the threat they faced.

Again, this was a good read but not one that I will revisit and one that is not very memorable. Being a big fan of The Shining, Doctor Sleep was rather disappointing and lackluster; it was meh!

I made a challenge to myself to read the entire King-dom library. I’m going to place that on hold as I want to check out a few other books in the interim. Next up for me is My Best Friend’s Exorcism which looks like a YA novel (Yikes!). What grabbed my attention was its groovy and rad cover art which just reeked of 80s nostalgia.

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Your Wish Is Your Command!

You’re on a family vacation in Florida where you plan on taking your kids to Disney World. You’re excited because it will be your first time back to the enchanted land since you were a kid yourself. You wake up early one morning and decide to take a stroll along the beach and pick up breakfast for everyone afterward. A walk down the beach is a fantastical notion being that you’re accustomed to the hustle and bustle of city life in New York. Not to mention that you’re walking on a beach in December!

I’m in heaven,” you think to yourself.

As you walk down the quiet beach, listening to waves crashing into the surface, your foot strikes an object. It’s a comical spectacle for any passerby having seen you wince in pain and jump up and down as you grab hold of your stubbed toe. When the pain subsides, you take a look down and blinded by the sun’s reflection off a gold metal object protruding just beneath the surface of the sand. Intrigued, you bend over and grab it. Grains of sand fall from the object and trickle to the ground. Your eyes widen and realization sets in as you have just uncovered a magic lamp. How do you know it’s a magic lamp? Luckily for you there a sticker on the bottom with the following disclaimer:

You have just found a magic lamp! Rub me and when you hear the magical chime, make a wish, and it will come true. You have three wishes, make them worthwhile!

A dream scenario, right?! My ticket to get everything I ever wanted at no cost! I could ask for all the riches in the world – in fact, come to think of it, that may be my only wish I have. Of course, there’s the obvious, wish for an infinite amount of wishes but the fine print below the disclaimer, it states, wishing for the discernible unlimited number of wants disqualifies your wishing abilities and all requests made beforehand. That takes that wish right off the table! (can I say “wishes” anymore?!)

My Three Wishes:

 

1.) I wish to be filthy rich! I know, I know – money is not the answer to everything. But, it is the answer to a lot! It will take care of a lot of problems, especially, debt. I can buy that DeLorean that I’ve been dreaming about ever since I was a kid! I can also help my family in more ways than I can even begin to imagine unless you’re a long lost cousin that I am just all of a sudden meeting for the first time.

2.) World Peace. Can you say, cliche? But, I would love to have my daughter, and everyone else, to be able to grow up in a peaceful world where violence is a thing of the past.

3.) Super Powers! I thought long and hard about this one and being that money (see first wish) has already taken care of a lot of my problems, why not compliment that with superhero powers. I mean, just take a look at Bruce Wayne/Batman! Yes, his parents were murdered, and he can be a bit emo, but I’d say things turned out pretty well for him. What kind of superpowers? I have no idea, kind of a general kind where all powers would be applicable given any situation. Fight crime? Probably not. I’ll probably use my powers as ice breakers for parties, impress friends, see what my wife is really thinking and influence my daughter into doing the right thing, like grabbing her father a beer from the fridge.

If you had three wishes, What would your wishes be?

House of Waxwork #1

“Fasten your drool cups, and ready your vomit bags! We’re going to the movies! Frights, camera, action!

No, this is not Tales From the Crypt, but if you love the old crypt comics and the HBO series (and movies) as well as a fan of old EC Comics, then  you’re going to love House Of Waxwork! Known for their growing catalog of horror soundtracks on LP such as Friday the 13th, Evil Dead 2, Creepshow, Rosemary’s Baby, Tales from the Darkside, John Carpenter’s The Thing and a slew of others (including non-horror soundtracks: Taxi Driver, The Warriors, etc.), many of which sit nestled between other records in my collection – Waxwork Records recently announced that they would be starting their own line of comics! How rad is that!

Issue #1 of House of Waxwork was just unleashed to the public, and I am happy to say that the first issue arrived on my doorstep in pristine condition. Actually, it was stuffed into my mailbox! (Thank, you USPS.) Still, there weren’t any damages to report. House of Waxwork promises to deliver stories and tales in the vein of old aforementioned comic lines from the likes of EC Comics like Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror.

The first issue features two stories of the macabre, Occult Slumber Party and The Lighthouse Keeper (my favorite of the two) – both great reads! It was an absolute pleasure to see that the fantastic Marc Shoenbach featured two exclusive move poster designs that headline each tale. What’s more, a vinyl 7″ soundtrack that serves as a companion to the stories is included – how neat is that?! This certainly makes up for the $14.95 price tag.

My only gripe is that I wish there were more stories, or, longer stories as I was able to finish this bad boy extremely quick. The comic book/7″ vinyl is a great addition to any collection and may prove to one day be sought after collectibles. I am definitely looking forward to issue #2!

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My Evil Dead: Part 2 – Dead by Dawn

Still six years old and I’m already hooked on The Evil Dead and yearn for more! The date was March 13, 1987, and Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn was just released in US cinemas. It was a significant day, not only because Evil Dead II was out, but because it was a Friday! How cool would it have been to say that I saw the Evil Dead sequel on Friday the 13th? All of my 6-year-old friends would be jealous! Well, not really – I didn’t have a lot of friends who were horror fans. (more…)

Sonic Boom!

Windows panes rattled, car alarms blared, and children screamed as the U.S Navy Blue Angels pierced through the skies above! That’s right, the New York Air Show was afoot and, despite the seemingly frightening description in the opening sentence, the experience was enthralling and awesome! While I am afraid of flying, watching fighter planes maneuver through the sky with excellent skill is both exhilarating and gets the adrenaline coursing from within, so much so, that every time a plane flew by I wanted to pump a fist towards the heavens and shout, “Woohoo!” 

It’s become a yearly tradition to have friends and family over to my house to watch the show from our backyard. Sure, it’s not front and center, but it is pretty damn close! Besides, it’s fun running back and forth from the front of the house to back as we try to keep up with where the show is going. Planes, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, corn on the cob, beer and good company – I could not ask for anything more.

My Evil Dead: Part 1

The year was 1981, and a small movie by the name of Evil Dead was unleashed to the public. Did I see it on release day? Of course not! I was only 1-year old at the time! Fast forward to about five years later and the year was 1986 when I was 5¾ years old. It was June 10th, my older brother’s seventh birthday “bash.” My parents, trying to ease the anticipations of a horde of seven and eight-year-olds eager to uncover what presents lay hidden underneath a layer of decorative wrapping, they suggested we watch a movie to keep us at bay.

Like me, my father had a love for movies, and in the day of the VCR, he recorded plenty of movies and/or made copies of rented movies from one of the many local Mom & Pop video rental stores in the area (Blockbuster was non-existent in our neighborhood those days). He had about three cabinets filled with about 500 VHS cassettes that each consisted of about two or three movies recorded in SLP mode (do that math). So yeah, there were a lot of movies to choose. Being 5¾-years old, I was not very familiar with the lot of them, save for Halloween, which was already a movie very dear to me at that age. But, that’s another story for another time. (more…)

My First French Kiss

 

Girls were the last thing on my mind when I was younger. I was into cool stuff like Star Wars, comic books, horror movies, sports, etc. Come to think of it, these are still things I love today! Girls weren’t even on the spectrum, let alone my radar. What once was geeky is now considered “cool” and staples of pop culture. Sure, in my adolescence some girls had crushes on me, and I was not oblivious to this by any stretch of the imagination. I was just too much of a chicken-shit to do anything about it. What can I say? Girls terrified me! (more…)

The Stephen King Effect

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with reading the works of Stephen King. There, I said it. I’ve had a few books penned by the horror maestro on my shelf for a few years having read a handful of them: On Writing, Joyland, and Night Shift –  OK, co maybe less than a handful (don’t judge)! The photo above represents my Stephen King collection consisted of as of a few months ago (two).

I want to start reading most, if not, all of Stephen King’s books. And so, I did what any “normal” human being would do and started an instant mini-King home library. Since my “craze” began, I’ve since finished three of his books: IT, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and The Shining(more…)

The Girl Who Loved The Shining

My Stephen King romp continues as I finished up The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Kubrick’s King’s novel, The Shining. I kid, I kid! Still, film buffs and horror aficionados alike could not help but associate the King novel to the Stanley Kubrick 1980 horror classic of the same name.
 
Let me start with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I didn’t know what to expect from this one. To tell you the truth (because why would I lie), I found a mint hardcover copy of the novel at a thrift shop and made the purchase on a whim and because I had been looking for Stephen King titles. This book was the only title sitting atop of an old dusty bookshelf by its lonesome. And so, it was purchased for a whopping $2.00. I thought I’d jump into some lighter King reading having just finished the “biblical” IT and judging by the book’s “thickness” figured it would be a quick read. And that, it was.

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